Hands to The Plow

The stress of ministry has been amplified tremendously since March 2020. For the past two years I have tried to “figure” this pandemic out. But no matter what I do or even which “experts” I listen to, there is no “figuring” out this virus. The stress in all this is that as a pastor, you feel “obligated” to have all the answers because after all “you [a pastor] have the inside scoop from God on all this.” I wish that was true, but there are many mysteries in the Bible that God has chosen to leave as mysteries.

Here is what we are experiencing as we head into the third year of this pandemic. Everything that we as a church were going through or transitioning towards has been accelerated by about ten years. We are getting a glimpse of what the church in 2032 will look like if we do not adapt and make some changes to how we ministry to our community. If we remain inwardly focused (keeping everyone that is already member comfortable and happy), then in ten years we will see no new growth, no new births via salvation in Jesus, and our attempts to maintain / preserve what we are doing will lead to death. I know this is not a pretty picture to paint, but it is a true picture that must be looked at and acted on.

Therefore, I am 100% convinced we are in a replant / revitalization season for our church. This has been my focus in my daily devotions, it has been the petition in my prayers, and it has consumed my reading for the past six months. I am seeking the help, advice, and counsel of men who have done this ministry [church replanting / revitalization] a lot longer than me. I am thankful that the North American Mission Board has a team dedicated to helping churches that are in this arena. I have reached out to them to come and help me understand this task ahead of me, so that I can lead the church better. Since God has not called the His church home, then our calling to make disciples of all people is still our mandate.

This will not be an easy task. It will not be a task that will be completed in a few months. This replant / revitalization will take three to five years to produce the needed change within us so that we will harvest the fruits from the seeds being sown now. I want to encourage you to join me on this marathon journey, grab your plow, cultivate the soil, sow the seeds of the gospel, water the seed, continually monitor the field, and wait for God to bring the increase. It is hard, messy, and tiresome work…but the blessings that come from God will be well worth our labor. Come, join me and let us glorify God as we replant, revitalize, and reclaim Atlantic Beach for God.

I Miss

Since March of 2020, I have missed a lot of things. COVID continues to be a cause of things changing around our church. No one knew what to do when this virus came, and we are still learning how to live with it. I firmly believe that this virus is not going away anytime soon and we must look to the Old Testament to see how we should continue to live during this season God has us in (See Jeremiah 29).

While we adapt and continue forward during this time, there are things I miss and would love to see bloom again around our church. I miss:

  • The sound of babies laughing and crying
  • The sound of children going to their Sunday Scholl classroom as I sit in my office praying and reviewing my sermon notes
  • The sound of children playing games as a part of their Bible lesson
  • The sound of youth giggling and talking as they walk to their class
  • Saying hello to all the ladies in their Sunday School class before they begin their lesson
  • The Men’s Sunday School class and sharing laughs with them
  • The couples Sunday School class
  • Going to youth camp
  • A full choir loft
  • Members that have not returned to in person worship (I know everyone of them and every week I weep and pray for them)
  • Members who I have not been able to see due to restrictions on visiting in assisted living facilities / hospitals / nursing homes

While I miss all of these, I am very thankful for:

  • The children that do come to Sunday (even though it is only one right now)
  • The youth that come to Sunday School
  • Teachers that are ready to teach every week
  • The Adult Sunday School class
  • The members of the choir that rehearse and sing each week
  • The audio / visual team that keep us up to date and available to live stream each week
  • Every person who is in attendance during our worship services and Wednesday evening Bible study (including those online)
  • All the ministry team leaders and team members serving the church

I know I have not done a good job during this season and for that I am truly sorry. I ask for your forgiveness and hope you will continue to support the church as we move forward with God. My heart is burdened for all of you and there is not a day goes by that I do not pray for you. I pray that soon all the things in the “I miss” column will move to the “thankful for” column. “The LORD bless you and keep you; The LORD make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26, NKJV).

Looking Forward, Not Behind

A New Year (2021) has begun. Yet it does not really feel new, does it? Yes the calendar changed, and we no longer have the date ending in 2020, but things do not feel different. Mainly because most issues from 2020 did not stop when the clock stuck midnight on December 31st. We still are dealing with COVID-19 (and most likely will for some time), there is still a major division in our country between political parties, racial tension is still high, and violence is high against our fellow man.

But, when you honestly look at it, the only thing different that we brought with us from the previous year into this year is a virus. Political division, racial tension, and violence against our fellow man is not new, it has been around for the fifty-six years I have been alive. It is just more apparent now due to the ease of access we have via many media outlets. Granted not all media outlets are reliable, but they are still out there, and people have their own preference for gathering their information.

This year we are going to continue to join God in His work here in Atlantic Beach. Some of our ministries will be restarting and others may feel like a new beginning. My prayer is that by Easter, we will be able to return to what many knew as a “normal” Sunday. I miss seeing everyone face to face. We were designed by a wonderful Creator to have fellowship with one another as much as we possibly could. I am looking forward to the day we are all back together with handshakes and hugs included.

My prayer is that you will join us in our journey. Be a part of something that is bigger than you can handle or do alone. Walk with us, as we walk with God. Become a member of this church if you have not church to call home. Support us this year as your trust God in your tithing, giving to the building fund, and other special offerings to support mission projects. I have a burden to see new birth in the church and have an above normal water bill because the baptismal pool will be filled often, and new believers will publicly make their profession of faith that Jesus is their Savior and Lord.

Come and be a part of what God is doing…We are ready for you, whenever you walk through our doors. As the old hymnal says, “We’ll work til Jesus comes, and then we’ll be going home.” But, until then the fields are calling us to the work of the Lord, and I am praying to the Lord of the harvest to send forth the laborers.

I love you all and cannot wait to see you again soon.

The Time To Come

I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry”. (2 Timothy 4:1–5, NKJV, emphasis added).

In his letter to Timothy, Paul provided a warning about “times to come”. Today we like to think that everything is happening for the first time in history. But we are wrong. At the end of Paul’s third missionary journey, he called the elders of the church in Ephesus over to Miletus and gave them a similar warning, “For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves” (Acts 20:29–30). If you study the history of churches you will find that this is one thing that happened to the church at Ephesus. But it did not just happen at Ephesus, it happened all over the region and now extends worldwide. Often overlooked is the fact that this is addressed to the church and those who claim to be Christians. We are called to be on guard for this type of behavior. Instead of being on guard, we have fallen and are struggling to get up and be relevant again.

With information only an arm’s length away since we cannot go anywhere without our “smartphones”, we now believe everything we read without doing any research on our own. Even satirical columns have become people’s battle cries and rally points (see https://babylonbee.com/). Something I have learned while working on my seminary degrees is that resources used to defend any thesis must be scholarly. Some commentaries, books, and articles do not meet this criterion. The question becomes, does it align with God’s Word and His truth. Since the middle of March, I can attest that Christianity is suffering due to not enduring sound doctrine because of our itching ears. This must stop if we are going to rise and stand. “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).

In the brief amount of time I visit social media sites, I am amazed at the amount of “posts” I see from people who are supposedly working 8+ hours a day and then to busy or tired to worship on Sunday. All the while they are still able to continue “posting” on social media sites. The “times to come” are here and we have been warned. There is a falling away happening due itchy ears and not believing sound doctrine, and it is happening in the church. Many are tossed about like a ship on the ocean that has lost power. Outside forces now control that ship by the wind and the waves. Outside forces are controlling many who claim to be a believer.

These times should not surprise us, but they do because we like to think we have progressed beyond the issues of the past and they will no longer come around. We are seeing everything we need to see that should drive us into times of fervent prayer and fasting. Everything written about the last days are unfolding before our eyes. God has spoken and is speaking clearly today. Who / what are you listening to? Let me challenge you to spend twice as much time reading your Bible as you do reading an article, watching a You-Tube video, scrolling for a “meme” that suits your preference, or sharing a “post”

Two 2020’s

My last note asked the question, “Where do we go from here?” (see Dec 30 note). Going into 2020, everything was normal, and life was moving along at a steady, doable, pleasing, and might I say, easy pace. Until the word “coronavirus” surfaced and started grabbing headlines.

We, like most people. “brushed” aside the thought of not being ready for what is now known as COVID-19. We assumed the World Health Organization and Center for Disease Control had a plan to curtail any virus out there. We were wrong! The year 2020 might need to be labeled 2020 BC (Before Corona) and 2020 AC (After Corona). March 8, 2020 was the last time I preached to my full congregation in our sanctuary. Sunday, March 15, I preached for the last time to anyone sitting in the seats in the sanctuary. On Monday the executive orders started flying for the president, governor, and mayor on restricting the number of people that would be considered safe to gather as this virus spread. That number was ten (10).

It was at that moment that God changed every priority in at least 95% of churches worldwide (only my opinion on that %). Regardless, it changed my priorities on church life and the agendas I had set to begin to accomplish for the next three years. It was like a scene from Forrest Gump when Lt. Dan asked Forrest while they were trying to figure out how to catch shrimp “So where is this God of yours?” To which we hear, “Right then, God showed up.” Everything changed for Forrest and LT Dan when God showed up. Everything has changed and continues to change now that God has shown up and reminded us as the church to see and do the Great Commandments (Love God, Love your neighbor).

We were working our vineyard and beginning to get “messy” when all this happened. We were making plans on how to best utilize some grant money to help us in the revitalization process. But God interrupted our plans and is reminding us, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Is 55:8–9, NKJV).

We have not met together now for a month; everything is now streaming live online. A project we were slowly working on, but it was only on simmer on the back burner. God moved it to the big front burner and turned the knob to high. He moved us from no streaming to fully up and running in four days. Yes, there were hiccups on March 22, but that is because social media was not prepared for thousands of churches to “go live” at 10:30 AM (Eastern Daylight Time) and the bandwidth could not handle it all. This too was corrected by the next Sunday. People and businesses were adapting as fast as they could and in the best manner they could to keep moving forward.

So, the new “where do we go from here?’ answer is, forward with God. Church will not be the same again, we have entered the “digital / virtual” church age. We must not return to the status quo we were enveloped in that became a horrible stench in the nostrils of God. If we do, we have missed a part of God’s message to the church. On average we were having 85 attend church this year. In three weeks, we are seeing over 300 “attend” church with us on a weekly basis. Church is not about “numbers”, but it is about souls. God has shown us the way to spread the gospel to the nations and reminds us it must be done outside the four walls of a building.

This [COVID-19] will pass. Let us not let God pass us by because we refuse to move forward with Him so that we can return to the “church we prefer” in 2020 BC.

Into The Future

Where do we go from here? A decade is closing out in just a few days (writing this on Dec 30, 2019). We will never see another 2019, it is about to be gone…forever. Looking back, it is hard to fathom that we are about to enter the year 2020. This idea seemed far-fetched back in the days of my youth, since everything related to the future on TV was dealing with living in outer space, traveling to far away galaxies, driving flying vehicles, and even teleportation possibilities. I can remember thinking back in the late 1990’s that there was no way this world would even be around long once we enter the twenty-first century. Yet here we are, twenty years into this century.

We are twenty years past the dreaded days of Y2K (some of you may need to Google this term). The entire world practically stayed up in 1999 on New Year’s Eve just to see if the world was going to end due to a computer code that could “crash” systems and send us into a financial and nuclear holocaust. Since you are reading this, you realize that did not happen. A simple reminder that God is in complete control of everything.

Since September of 2003, God has been gracious to me and my family and planted me here as the pastor of this church. Every now and then, I will briefly look back so I can learn from my past and my failures. Yes, there are things I would do differently to have equipped and aided this church for the future. I only briefly look back, because God is always moving forward. In a car, the rear-view mirror is small, and the windshield is large for a reason. Where do we go from here? I hope we learn and press on. I know that is what I am going to do. “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus” (Php 3:13–14 CSB).

The question of “Where do we go from here”, can only be answered by us as individuals. I must answer the question, “Where do I go from here?” I found my answer in the book of Proverbs. I believe this is the vision God has placed on my heart for this church, not just the year 2020, but until He calls us home. “Complete your outdoor work, and prepare your field; afterward, build your house” (Pr 24:27). Part of this work has been completed through the help of a friend of mine and the Florida Baptist Convention. I have placed in our deacons hands a demographic survey of our community and will soon share this with the church. We know what our field looks like now and what the projection looks like through 2022.

Now, here comes the part that will require us to “get dirty”. “I went by the field of a slacker and by the vineyard of one lacking sense. Thistles had come up everywhere, weeds covered the ground, and the stone wall was ruined. I saw, and took it to heart; I looked, and received instruction: a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the arms to rest, and your poverty will come like a robber, and your need, like a bandit” (Pr 24:30–34). Pay attention to that last part, we can no longer circle the mountain of apathy, it will ruin us. Our field is ripe for the harvest. Our mission field must be worked. People need to be engaged by the church to know that the church cares. Sure, we will get a few that come that searched for “churches near me” on their smartphones, but that is not going to show Atlantic Beach and the Mayport Naval Base that we care about where they will spend eternity. There are over 13,000 people in our mission field of Atlantic Beach alone. The projection for Navy families stationed at Mayport by 2022 is over 30,000.

Our vineyard needs work and I am calling us into a year long work that will get messy. But I promise you this, the reward far outweighs and mess you might experience. This work might make some of you uncomfortable. This work might cause you to “loose your seat” during a worship service. This work might cause you to change your idea of who your neighbor really is. Everyone will have a part in this, and every part is important. Some of you will need to be our praying warriors, because you are not able to walk the neighborhood. We will provide you a guide of the area you can pray over. Some will walk the neighborhood and do the inviting (we are in the process of getting new outreach doorhangers that provide the invitation). Some of you will make one on one personal visits to our guests that begin to come. It will take all of us working side by side together, just as the Israelites did in rebuilding the wall under Nehemiah’s leadership (Read Nehemiah 3).

Where do we go from here? We go where God leads and we go via His directions. “Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. For in this the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps” (John 4:35–37). In 2020, may our knees hurt from the hours spent on them in praying to the Lord of the harvest and let us be proud to show the dirt, scrapes, cuts, and bruises on our hands as we work our vineyard.


God Bless you all as we work and serve together for His glory,

Pastor Greg

Happy Thanksgiving / Merry Christmas

We are entering my favorite time of year. Since 2015 I have been enrolled in college / seminary at Liberty University, so not only is this the Thanksgiving / Christmas time of year for me, it also ends the fall semester and I go on a long winter break form school. Lord, willing I will complete my M-Div in Biblical Studies this summer. A quick word of advice to the younger generation, get you college education early in life if you can, I wish I had done all of this twenty-five years ago.

I love this time of year. The weather gets cooler (my A/C gets a break), there is a buzz in the air about Christmas and Thanksgiving gives my family a chance to get together and enjoy the day. Yes, it can get hectic, but I love seeing the smiles on their faces and the groans from eating to much a few hours later. We have a tradition around my house that involves baking cinnamon rolls and watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and while over the years that has evolved into just me and my wife, it still makes us smile because our children are carrying on that tradition. Macy’s has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, and it is this parade that “escorts” Christmas into our home. I hope you have some fond Thanksgiving traditions that you still do that always make you smile.

Christmas brings great joy to me, especially with a three-year old grandson. This year he is going to help me decorate the house with lights and inflatables. I cannot wait for him to help me! We get to talk about Christmas and what it means as we put up the nativity scene and how it is the time of year we celebrate the birth of Jesus. Connor (my grandson) loves to ask questions and I am thrilled to answer them in a way a three-year old can understand. Yes, we also talk about Santa Claus, elves, reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, and everything else he wants to talk about. The beauty in all this is the joy I see in him when we talk about all these parts of Christmas. The angels told the shepherds, “I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people” (Luke 2:10, NKJV).

That is what I do during this holiday season. I try to bring good tidings of great joy to everyone I encounter. I invite you to join me in doing the same to everyone you meet. As the classic Burl Ives song says:

Have a holly, jolly Christmas

It’s the best time of the year

I don’t know if there’ll be snow

But have a cup of cheer

Have a holly, jolly Christmas

And when you walk down the street

Say hello to friends you know

And everyone you meet.


God Bless you all and from my family to yours….Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas.

My “Good Thing”

He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the LORD (Proverbs 18:22)

I am going to take the time in this note to brag on my wife. Kathy and I have been married for 35 years and when we married many people said we would not last 5 years. I do not look at her and think we have “lasted” a lot longer, I look at her with grateful love and appreciation that she said yes to me. We have been through a lot together.

We married on March 30, 1984 (our first date was December 10, 1983). I deployed on April 23rd for seven and a half months. When I returned, she had our first apartment all set up and ready for our first “home”. She did this without fully understanding everything about being a Navy wife and she did it with magnificently. Spanish Oaks in Charleston, South Carolina will always be special to us.

She gave birth to our son, Jason, on November 29, 1985 at 4:55 AM because she told my mom she was not having Thanksgiving in the hospital. God was good and let her have mom’s thanksgiving meal…then he broke her water just a few hours later. We had no idea how much her life would change in less than a year.

In 1986 a scan revealed a grapefruit sized tumor in her brain. While we were not faithfully following the Lord, we prayed that He would help us, and He did (a reminder that God is faithful even when we are not). Even though Jason’s first birthday was celebrated in Kathy’s hospital room, the tumor was successfully removed. The only complications we had were dealing with a few infections, which called for surgery to remove part of her skull and replace it with a protective mesh. This just means she cannot go on rides at amusement parks that throw you around or get you dizzy. The doctors also told her that because of some of the medications she was on she might not be able to get pregnant again…they were once again wrong. In the summer of 1987, we found out she was pregnant.

Because of the medications she was having to take, this was not an easy pregnancy. Kathy started having seizures and we spent many days rushing to the ER to monitor her and the baby. On March 27, 1988 at 11:36 AM, our daughter Amber made her entrance into this world. She was born a few weeks early and did not like normal formula for a while, but she was healthy and so was Kathy.

Over my 21 years in the Navy we moved almost every 3-5 years, and Kathy was usually the one having to do all the planning and preparing (I was out to sea or on a mission during shore duty). For some reason the Navy always moved us around her birthday (Oct 5), this was an emotional strain for her.

Since 1986, Kathy has been diagnosed with many health issues, many of the hereditary. She has neurofibromatosis (discovered because of brain tumor), equilibrium issues, osteoporosis (especially in her lower back causing chronic pain), arthritis, and most recently fibromyalgia. I write all of this not for anyone to feel sorry for her, she nor I want that, but to say how much I appreciate everything she does when she is able to do them.

Yes, there are times she cannot make it to church or church events due to not being able to move well or simply unable to get out of bed. But this does not mean she is unfaithful to God or His church…she is just in a tremendous amount of physical pain. I would not even wish that my worst enemy had what she has. I miss her deeply when she is unable to be with me at church (she is my strongest support and my helper). I hate traveling alone (except on my hunting trips with my dad). Even when she sleeps in the car while I drive, just having her there means the world to me.

So, if there are times you do not see her, then say a prayer for her. She might be in pain and in bed trying to ease the pain or she might be in the nursery or extended session with our grandson, Connor, and the other children. She loves the children, and she especially loves being Nana to Connor. My wife is an awesome wife, mom, Nana, and friend. She is God’s gift to me, and she strives to be the best pastor’s wife she can be. I love her more than words can express, and I thank God everyday for her. So, I am happy to brag on her in this note, because she makes me proud to be her husband. She truly is my “good thing.”

It’s Personal, Pastor

What if you got everything you always wanted? Would you be satisfied and content? The answer to that question is NO you would not, because you would then have to deal with the issue of opposition from others who did not receive everything they wanted. Personal preferences are just that, personal to the individual that desires them. Therefore, you will never find your “perfect” church.

For many years, I was “away” from church because of how I was treated after my parents were divorced in 1981. For some reason “Christians” have made divorce the “unpardonable sin”, and I was ostracized by the church family I grew up with for the first sixteen years of my life. But that is for another post later. I tell you that to say it was then that I stayed away from church, because churches did not meet my preferences. I made a “mental” list of what a church must look like for me to return. It was an unachievable list, but one that I justified within myself. People still make these lists today causing them to stay away from church but justifying their actions.

So, what are your personal preferences that hinder you from being where God wants you? Musical style, preaching style, Bible translation used, small groups meeting away from the church instead of in a Sunday school environment, how people “dress” for worship, activities for your children, ministries offered by the church. You can continue your list as you would like, because this is not all inclusive, nor is it based on things at this church…these are just from over sixteen years of observance as a pastor in a small church. Have we forgotten the cost of following Jesus, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Lk 9:23)?

Notice my question above has asked you what it is that hinders you from being where God wants you. A hindering heart is a non-serving heart and a heart that God will not use for kingdom work. There is a great need in the church today to put away all personal preferences and focus on the Great Commandment as we fulfill the Great Commission

Final Thoughts at Christmas 2018

As I sit here looking at what is left of Christmas when you have a two-year-old grandson in the house, I smile at the mess, but I also feel sad that the day is ending. I know that for months we have planned on this day to arrive so we could see the excitement on his face, this was the first year he understood Santa and presents. Even though he is still under the weather, he was overwhelmed with the gifts and is still processing all that this day brought.

I also know that Christmas is not the same for everyone as it is for me and my family. I miss being with my family back in Alabama during the holidays. It has been over ten years since I spent Christmas back home. It was the final Christmas my mom ever had, and we had to celebrate it with her in the hospital. Today, there are many of you that had similar feelings mixed into a day we Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus. I spent some time today doing what I could to help a dear friend that was not have a joyous Christmas and it was difficult for her. I spent time thinking on some that this Christmas was their first Christmas without a loved one who had passed away this year. Emotions are high, and low, on this day and as believers we should be sensitive to this so we can better minister to those around us.

So, as Christmas comes to a close in just a few minutes, I want to let you know that you are loved with a love that is greater than any words I can type or say. No matter your circumstance at this moment, God loves you with a love that surpasses anything this world attempts to suppress you through meanness or ugliness. In the brokenness of man’s relationship with God brought on by the fall in the garden of Eden, God promised to send a rescuer to restore fallen man into a right relationship with Him. Christmas reminds us that God keeps His promises. He promised that through the seed of woman would come someone who would crush the head of Satan, while only bruising His heel. This man was born on the day we celebrate Christmas and His name is Jesus. Why did this happen? Because “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:16–17, NKJV). May you never forget how much God loves you. God bless you as you press forward into 2019.